I’ve lately been learning interesting tips and ideas from Steve Mitchell, whose YouTube channel is The Mind of Watercolor. One I found especially intriguing is the way he uses watercolor to “sketch” or “draw” as if the brush were a pencil. (This is not at all like direct watercolor painting, which is simply painting without an initial underdrawing.)
With this technique, Steve avoids applying broad strokes of paint and instead uses only the very tip of a fine brush to emulate a pencil. Using a single pale dilution of “palette dirt” (his term for the grayish paint leftover on the mixing tray), he builds values gradually in layers just as he would when sketching with graphite.
|11/26/23 Sakura watercolors in Hahnemuhle sketchbook|
Steve’s favorite brush for this technique is the smallest available in the Derwent line of waterbrushes. I have one, but I don’t care for it, so for the sketch of bare trees below, I started out using my favorite Kuretake. Because I use waterbrushes almost exclusively with everything, I found it ironic that I eventually switched to a traditional watercolor brush because the waterbrush kept further diluting the already pale “palette dirt,” making it continually paler. I also thought the Kuretake brush was too broad for this purpose.
For the portrait, I used the pan version of Viarco ArtGraf (a new-to-me product that I’m excited to get into; a dedicated post on it will be coming later). It’s basically water-soluble graphite in cake form. I had to chuckle to myself about the mind-twisting paradox of using a liquid form of graphite to draw with a brush while emulating a pencil! Huh??!
With both sketches, I was tempted to darken the dilution of the paint or graphite to build up darks faster, and I also kept wanting to “paint” wider strokes to speed up the process, but to do either would be to miss the point. The idea is to glaze the layers gradually using as fine a brush line as possible to get the feeling of pencil sketching and a result that’s similar in appearance. Once I got past the painty feeling that holding a brush gave me and slowed down, just as I would with a pencil, I really enjoyed the process. You can see how it might appeal to a penciler like me! (I wonder if painters who don’t enjoy pencil sketching find this method appealing, too?)
|Two things worth exploring further: This technique and|
ArtGraf water-soluble graphite in pan form.
This technique deserves further exploration. For more demos by Steve on this subject, see this video.